Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008
Perhaps no other composer’s career fell so neatly into two distinct halves as that of Richard Strauss (1864-1949). He began as an almost exclusively orchestral composer, turning out one great tone poem after another until roughly the first decade of the 20th century. Then came his “second act” as a composer of operas. While Strauss’ first two operas remained quite firmly grounded in the same Wagnerian tradition as his many orchestral tone poems, his third opera, Salome, marked the turning point—and what a decidedly revolutionary one it was! Salome burst upon the early-20th-century music scene in 1905, ushering in musical modernism and even the avant-garde. Premiering in Dresden, Germany, Salome was condemned by musically conservative critics for its perceived moral decadence, but the more adventurous found it to be a fresh start for an art form that was becoming somewhat staid and predictable.